Billeh Ocean has made quite a name for himself around the Chicago scene. He's a radio personality, a blogger, a music manager, event planner, a Do312 tastemaker and overall a true Chicagoan. Since the early 2000's, Billeh has been hosting his own radio show, originally titled Hostage Radio, but a few years back Billeh garnered the exposure that he deserved with his new radio show/blog The Minimal Beat. TMB is a tastemakers blog - built around showcasing new music and photography. Billeh, a resident of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, sat down and answered some questions as apart of our LiveChicago Series.
TS: It was early 2000's when we had first met - you had your radio station at DePaul and at
that time it was called Hostage Radio. Many years later, you now host the weekly radio
show The Minimal Beat on WLUW and have also become a tastemaker for DO312. As
a mainstay of the Chicago nightlife scene; how have you seen the city's arts community
evolve for the better?
TMB: The city has changed so much since the early 2000’s… I mean there was
no Lollapalooza or Pitchfork… I really think those two fest really helped turn this city’s summer
into what it currently is today… You can say what you want about Lollapalooza but they bring in
so many people from all over the world this our city and not to mention these mega bands!
TS: Each month you throw and DJ an event called "ITALIANS DO IT BETTER vs DFA" -
can you further elaborate on what exactly this monthly series is?
TMB: It’s a party that we throw and play music from those two labels! Some artists you can expect to hear are Glass Candy, LCD Soundsystem, The Crystal Ark, YACHT, Chromatics, Mirage, Farah, Mike Simonetti to name a few at The Burlington Bar in Logan Square on June 7. I mean c’mon who doesn’t wanna hear Hipster Dance Music : )
TS: The Minimal Beat is not only a great radio show, but it's also become one of my favorite
blogs. As a fan of your show and your blog, my anticipation for your weekly mixtape has
grown. Influencing people as often as you do make me wonder why you haven't started
your own record label yet. Do you have any plans or interest in starting a label? If so, what
local artists would you like to work with?
TMB: Well Tom, it’s interesting you bring that up… I have been thinking about this a lot lately and think that is is finally gonna happen! I just don’t want to do something and see it fail after a year or so if everything goes according to plan I would like to put out the first release before the end of the year… As far as local talent from Chicago there are a few that I would most certainly like to work with but I’m gonna keep them to myself for now so nobody steals them from me…
TS: Your SXSW party was one of the best shows of the entire festival. Besides your
involvement with The Ultra Violet Petting Zoo in 2011 - what other festivals have you
helped coordinate and do have any that we should know about this summer?
TMB: Yes the SXSW party down in Austin this past March was great and a ton of fun!!! However, the folks that deserve most of the credit are from Chicago Mixtape, Wine From The Moon and Audio Tree
they are the ones that really made that party happen! As far as anything else that is confirmed
nothing I can really talk about right now…
TS: Speaking of Summer Festivals; Which summer festivals do you look forward to the most?
TMB: Chicago is the city of Festivals… So there really is not one particular one I am looking forward
to most…So, here are a few that have great line-ups Pitchfork Fest, Wavefront Fest, North Coast Fest, Lollapalooza (meh), and the endless street fests that take over Chicago!
TS: While living in Wicker Park, you've seen the neighborhood go through many changes. Can
you give us a list of your favorite places that we may not know about?
TMB: Reckless Records, Antique Taco, Big Star, Lucias, Gallery Café, La Pasadita, Rainbo, Charleston Bar, Decibel Audio, Rodan…
TS: You managed Chicago rock band Jonny Rumble for years, worked with (Rock Proper),
thrown many successful events, and continue to throw great events around the city. So your
influence has remained apparent on the Chicago scene in many different ways; any plans
on leaving Chicago or is this just the start for you?
TMB: Well, I plan on staying put for the time being but if I ever moved away from Chicago it would be to a island in Greece or some costal town in southern California!
Favorite Chicago neighborhood? Logan Square
Favorite venue or theater? Empty Bottle
Favorite Chicago team? Cubs/Bulls/Bears sorry I cant pick just one…
Favorite Chicago movie? High Fidelity
Favorite local shop or boutique? Reckless/Gramaphone/Permanent
Favorite local blog? Notes & Bolts is a cool one…
Favorite local coffee or tea shop? Atomic
Favorite local bar? The Burlington/Rainbo/Charleston
Favorite local restaurant? Really liking Antique Taco lately…